Simplifying The National Anthem Issue In Sports
We all have rights.
From outside of the sports world and into the public forum, America’s National Anthem has become a source of debate. Specifically, the honoring (or dishonoring, depending on your opinion) of it.
Once again, some National Football League players choose to kneel during the National Anthem. This is extending to other sports, and it became a hot-button issue in the national discourse. President Donald Trump thrust it back into the spotlight once again in saying that he would “love” if teams got rid of players who kneel during the anthem. This was like gasoline on the fire, and clear lines were drawn in the verbal dispute. Either you were “for” America or “against” it, or either you were “for” equality or you weren’t.
For politics and elections coverage, we’ll refer you over to Electionarium. That is not what we do here, but sports and politics intersected. There is no denying that.
The National Anthem Protests, Simplified
We are going to boil down the National Anthem issue to three truths. There may be more, but there are not fewer.
-Athletes have the right to non-violent protest if they so choose, as do any free citizens.
-Their employers have the right to discipline them for those actions or inactions, as do any private employers.
-Their consumers have the right to support or denounce those actions or inactions, as do any free citizens.
The National Anthem And Your Rights
This is all about freedom. You don’t have to like something that someone else does, but you can’t stop them from doing it. As long as nobody is harmed, this is a consistent principle. Likewise, you have the right to disassociate yourself from those remarks or actions. If you take action while at your place of employment, you may discover your right to free speech does not extend to your cubicle. In the case of NFL players, that is on the field of play.
Freedom is also not the expectation that everyone will conform to a certain set of standards or rules. You can dislike how someone expresses their free speech, but wishing they were unable to express it is incongruent with liberty. “They should have to stand up” is incompatible with freedom. “Those players should be fired” is incompatible with freedom. “As a team, we all have to kneel down” is incompatible with freedom.
There are people offended by the protests. Hell, there are people offended by those offended at the protests.
Agreeing To Disagree On The National Anthem Protests
The divide is also marred by extremes, at least in the case off some. Disagreement with the National Anthem protest does not mean you’re against any groups of people. Participating or agreeing with it does not make you a pinko America-hater.
As a fan, you are allowed to say that you think their protest is disrespectful and withhold your money. You also have the right to agree with it and hope it sparks a national conversation. Finally, you have a right to not care and watch for just the football. There is no right answer, but there are wrong answers. Namely, “this should not be allowed.”
The right to free speech has limits, as any legal scholar will tell you. That liberty ends at obscenity, fighting words, and incitement, to name a few items. Kneeling during the National Anthem is not obscene. One may applaud it, and that’s their right. You may find it disrespectful, and that’s fine. Your employer, in this case the team owner, may also find it disrespectful, and that’s their right as well. Actions have consequences, and that will always be the case.
This is a case where we tried to “stick to sports,” but sports couldn’t stick to itself for a variety of reasons. One hopes that Americans, if they disagree, can do so with civility and respect. Sports are supposed to bring people together, but sadly, they’re setting people apart.